Dustin Brown unleashed a quick slapshot from above the left circle early in the third period of Los Angeles’ 4-3 win over San Jose in Game 2 Thursday night that deflected off Dan Boyle’s stick and into the face of Anze Kopitar, who had no time to react. Kopitar’s visor caught a piece of the puck as the left side of his face bore the worst of the contact. He missed roughly 10 minutes of action as doctors administered “around” 20 stitches, according to the Kings star.
“Oh, he finally got some stitches in his lips,” Darryl Sutter said. “There goes the modeling career. Best looking Slovenian athlete.”
Kopitar smiled when hearing that his tenure as a model had come and gone.
“I think that ship has sailed a long time ago,” he joked.
It wasn’t exactly smiles and chuckles for Los Angeles at the time. The Kings were tied 2-2 with the Sharks at the moment Kopitar went down and trailed 3-2 when he returned to the ice to the Rocky Theme and a standing ovation roughly 10 minutes later.
“I mean, it just shows how passionate [the fans] are. It’s nice to know that they’re always behind us,” Kopitar said of the reception.
It was a fairly typical playoff moment in the life of a hockey player, one that the star center was able to shrug off the next day.
“They numbed me up pretty good right after for stitches, so I didn’t really feel anything. So it wasn’t too bad. But after it wore off, it was sore a little bit but nothing too bad.”
“I was split up open pretty good, so that’s why they need to put ‘em in right away.”
Kopitar made sure that he slept on his right side or on his back as not to displace any of the stitches, though he ended up with a satisfactory night of sleep.
It was the second time Kopitar bore the pain of blunt force trauma administered by Brown; in a 4-1 win over Edmonton on April 6, an Oilers player tugged on Brown’s jersey, causing him to spin around wildly and smack his teammate broadly across the face with his stick.
“I guess the stick was not enough, so he had to shoot the puck at my face, too,” he said
Neither situation caused Kopitar to miss much time.
“Well, I wanted to make sure it was nothing serious,” he said. “As soon as I found that out, it was really a no-brainer. To come back, I’m sure everybody else in this room would do the same thing.”
It’s a code of toughness that was reinforced by his coach.
“What difference does it make if it’s Anze Kopitar? Hockey players are different than other athletes,” Sutter said. “You get hit in the face and they get cut and you go in and you get sewed up and you come back out and play. I’ve very seldom in 30-something years seen a player that doesn’t do that.”
“Spit your teeth in your hands. ‘Put me in, coach.’”
The residual effects on Friday were minimal, other than a black stream of stiching curving up from the side of his mouth.
“It feels good,” Kopitar said. “A little sore, but not too bad.”